Kiggundu: I don’t take orders from Museveni, anyone else

Saturday January 02 2016

Uganda's Electoral Commission chairman Badru Kiggundu. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI

Observers in previous elections have accused the Electoral Commission of malpractices. The EC chairman BADRU KIGGUNDU spoke to HALIMA ABDALLAH about this and the body’s independence.


The EC has been accused of being partisan. Are you independent?

I have never been directed to do anything by anybody for 13 years as EC chairman. We are and we will remain independent. But we acknowledge certain variables of independence: First, resources. Where do we get the money from to run all our programmes? From the executive. Second, parliament makes the laws that I follow.

Those two variables are not in my control. But if, for example, I made a decision that today is polling day, nobody would stop me. We have independence on the declaration of results by law. I do it without asking anybody’s opinion.

Some people believe that you cannot disappoint the appointing authority and declare another person winner in the presidential election.


I sympathise with those people. Who appoints the chief justice? Can the chief justice make a decision in a case brought against the state, and it holds? To declare a winner is not a question of courage but law. Why then do I declare opposition candidates winners in elections and by-elections? This commission will do what the law says.

Do you have a way of establishing that declared results at polling stations are a reflection of the voters’ choices?

I have the power to cancel any results from any polling station across the country, where irregularities have been detected. Wherever there is malpractice I cancel the results and everybody loses. In 2006, we cancelled results from over 30 polling stations.

In 2006, the Supreme Court found that there were electoral irregularities, and ballot box stuffing was one of them. The EC was blamed for this. What have you done to avoid a recurrence?

First of all, Ugandans should appreciate that there are many stakeholders in an election. Yes, we are the referee, but a voter, an agent, political parties, security, observers, government, the media… We have identified 21 stakeholders. If each plays his/her role, we will have a good election.

We expect two agents per polling station for every presidential candidate. The candidates have voters registers, but how many are capable of distributing them to all their agents? In 2011, only two political parties out of seven could afford that. The register is 800,000 pages, which they are supposed to distribute to every polling station. We have 28,010 polling stations. It cost us over Ush400 million ($120,000) for each set.

How would you describe the campaigns thus far?

We have finished all the nominations as we had planned, except we are seeing petitions coming in, and we are handling them administratively.

What kind of petitions are you receiving and how many are there so far?

We have approximately 200 complaints, the majority being, “I was denied an opportunity to be nominated.” In 2011, we had over 600 complaints. We resolved 90 per cent of them.  But there some of them we do not have jurisdiction over, such as academic qualifications.

There has been a public outcry over violence in Ntungamo involving NRM and Amama Mbabazi’s supporters; and FDC versus the Deputy Speaker of parliament in Gulu over a rally venue. Does that bother you?

The first month of the presidential campaigns was peaceful. We held a meeting between the opposition and NRM at the Prime Minister’s Office, the core discussion being conduct in the campaign period. If we were able to do things peacefully in the first month, why do we want to them spoil now?

The Deputy Speaker should not carry the title to rallies. I wrote to him and said that he was on the wrong. I copied that letter to the other parties.

Before the beginning of the campaigns, we agreed that parliamentary candidates should not campaign before December 23, because of duties in parliament. This would also reduce unfair competition by rivals who would be combing constituencies. Leaders should advise their supporters to tolerate each other.

How about certain people’s names that are reported to be missing from the voters register?

During the update of the register, many people did not check whether their names were transferred to their preferred polling areas. For those who checked, forms were available for them to fill and indicate a change of polling stations. Many ignored them, assuming the choices they must have been automatically registered. But there have been errors here and there.

READ: Uganda’s electoral commission faulted over voters register

You have threatened to call in the army to deal with Kizza Besigye over his “campaign of defiance” and that is of great concern to the public. Involving the army in an election brings negative energy.

I said bring in the army if need be, because defiance is not good for this country. I would not encourage my sons or daughters to join defiance. Use your brain positively if you want to get to leadership.

Who is printing the ballot papers and are they ready?

They are printed by different companies in the UK, South Africa, Dubai and Uganda. They will be ready and here in time.